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Feb 29, 2012

Labor infighting and the spoils of office

The Labor infighting over the Senate vacancy created by the departure of Mark Arbib demonstrates why the party's problems run far deeper than Kevin Rudd and his alleged destabilisation.


The Labor infighting over the Senate vacancy created by the departure of Mark Arbib demonstrates why the party’s problems run far deeper than Kevin Rudd and his alleged destabilisation.

Julia Gillard’s failure to get her way on bringing Bob Carr to Canberra has been reported and analysed as another Gillard failure, this time against the very party machine that gave her such a strong victory on Monday.

But it also serves to demonstrate how focused Labor is internally on the division of spoils of office, which has become the raison d’être of Labor’s factions — recall how much resentment there was towards Kevin Rudd’s policy of offering positions to former Coalition figures.

Carr would have bolstered Labor’s frontbench, and enabled the government to tap the expertise of a veteran politician who knew how to win elections — something in desperately short supply in the government currently. He would also have made a quality foreign minister — one refreshingly free of the groupthink that marks DFAT’s view of the world and Australia’s place in it. That this was stymied because of resentment over such a plum position being handed to an “outsider” says far more about the modern Labor Party than about Julia Gillard’s leadership.


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34 thoughts on “Labor infighting and the spoils of office

  1. Gavin Moodie

    I agree.

    Former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh also thinks Carr would be a good foreign minister. Incidentally, he also thinks Rudd was a poor foreign minister: too much concerned with the northern hemisphere and too little interested in Asia which matters much more to Australia. These and other interesting comments were on Radio National breakfast on Wednesday 29 February 2012 at 7:39 am.

  2. Peter Ormonde

    Crikes …

    I’d be interested in seeing your basis for accepting the Shanahan assertion that Gillard had personally anointed Carr – even to the point of airports and plane tickets – only to be rolled. Shanahan’s piece had the usual “sources close to”… one Cabinet Minister told me…. but no names, no pack-drill. Just take him on trust. Again?

    You really think Gillard does these things without the odd phone call with her mates and doing the numbers a bit? My goodness you think she’s adopted the “Rudd persona” as well as the “Rudd Agenda”?

    Is there any suggestion of evidence – any suggestion that anyone at all had a conversation with Shanahan – that a ticket was bought?

    Seeing as you are spreading the assertion as fact – be interested in your evidence. Or is it just “Denis told us”. Must be true.

  3. drovers cat

    “Julia Gillard’s failure to get her way on bringing Bob Carr to Canberra has been reported and analysed as another Gillard failure … ,” you say – and there’s the rub.
    You should have stopped after “has been reported and analysed” because from there on, it’s a media view, borrowed prima facie but you are ready to buy into it there and then.
    That’s what’s wrong with all this, espcially if the Shenanigan-ahan name is invoked.
    As far as I am concerned, if a News Ltd political viewpoint is taken as mainstream, it’s suss. That’s a view not thrust upon the company by me, it’s a view borne of its own admission it is pro-Coalition. For me, and I am sure many others News Ltd some time ago dealt itself out of any serious political commentary because by its own publically announced choice it had taken sides.
    Perhaps you (Bernard?) are looking to follow in your predecessor Christian’s footsteps; meanwhile, don’t expect the likes of put any weight behind any of your political utterings as a result of this offering.
    For the record, Bob Carr in my view would have been a major asset to the ALP frontbench.

  4. Mark from Melbourne

    Flights of fantasy again Crikey??? As far as I heard/read, Bob Carr declined an offer from NSW Labour – how does that translate into a failure for Gillard?

  5. FairSuckOfTheSav

    Hold your horses Crikey. You state “Labor infighting over … the departure of Mark Arbib” and “Gillard’s failure to get her way” as if they are indisputable facts. These are highly emotive terms and highly subjective. Unless and until you can provide the evidence to back up such claims you would be doing your paying subscribers and other readers a service to be a bit more balanced.

    Of course, I don’t know what has actually happened within the Labor Party but all I have read so far suggests only that Ms Gillard rang Carr to canvass the possibility of a role and that, umm, some others in the party also had a view on who should fulfill the role. Unless I’m missing something, I could have sworn that was the way things are supposed to work. In any case, it’s a long way short of infighting and failure to get your way. I am happy for my (sometimes beloved) Crikey to stick it’s neck out and have an opinion but I don’t expect it to be involved in media beat ups.

  6. Delerious

    No, no, no it does say something about Gillard’s leadership. It is says she doesn’t lead but takes direction. This is reflected in her capability in selling policies. Also extremely poor.

  7. Holden Back

    Psst- pass it on- I heard that Roving Editor Paul Kelly was offered the Foreign Minister position, and Denis Shenahan the Deputy Treasurer ( he can make figures do anything!).

  8. pertina1

    Bruce Haig thinks so too, so it must be so. Really?

    I am puzzled why the PM should need an ex-politician whose most noteworthy achievement was in resigning his premiership before a decade of mismanagement caught up with him. A merchant of spin who lacked the courage to take on Sussex Street, an obsessive deficit hawk who failed dismally to invest in NSWs future. True, he knew how to win elections but if that’s Bernards yardstick perhaps she should ask Bob Hawke to come back, now that Mr Carr has reportedly turned this offer down.

    The real story must surely be that Ms Gillard has yet again demonstrated her lack of judgement (if this is in fact true that she wanted Mr Carr)

    Bruce Keane had been a key reason why I’ve continued to be a Crikey subscriber but sadly he seems to have lost his edge recently. Please send him on a long vacation.

  9. Peter Ormonde

    Hi there, advocates of accountable responsible journalism with extra source:

    What’s the difference between this and your opening par:

    “Unsourced reports of alleged Labor infighting over the Senate vacancy created by the departure of Mark Arbib demonstrates why the party’s problems run far deeper than Kevin Rudd and his destabilisation.”

    All I’ve done is removed the “alleged” from “Rudd’s alleged destabilisation”… and explained the origins and status of the “infighting” assertions. Just for accuracy. Once those allegations are revealed as unsubstantiated … your story and analysis falls flat on it’s arse.

    How to slant a story folks.

  10. Gavin Moodie

    Perhaps if you listened to what he said you may be informed by his reasons.

  11. Peter Ormonde

    I have four comments on various threads in simultaneous moderation. Is this a record? Or something more miraculous.

  12. Mark from Melbourne

    And on the same report that Gavin quotes from, both Haigh and Hugh White said that although Carr would have been a good choice as FM, but were clear on saying that there were several people in government who would be good in the role. People like Combet, Wong, Ferguson, Crean from memory – they noted that the biggest issue is whether these people would be more useful in their domestic portfolio’s given the next 18 months.

  13. Filth Dimension

    No surprises as to why there is no byline. What utter rubbish. Does crikey now have a horoscopes section.

  14. Mark from Melbourne

    I too love Bruce Keane. Bernard however gets on my whick for sloppiness (assuming he wrote this leader).

  15. David Allen

    I now consider anything appearing without nominal attribution to be fiction. Hence, I regard ‘The Australian’ as a collection of novelettes.

  16. Mike Flanagan

    Now we get stories written by an ‘unname sources’ quoting ‘unnamed sources’. Where will it end Crikey?

  17. Mark from Melbourne

    I have developed a theory that the team at Crikey just come up with this sort of stuff to get a reaction – just like little boys pouring hot water down an ants nest. I can just picture them sitting around giggling fit to burst as the comments roll in…

  18. klewso

    By comparison, Carr could also have made these self-serving pissant time-servers look like self-serving pissant time-servers too?

  19. Mike Flanagan

    I think you might be right M from M. Opiniated pieces without a by-line are very sus.

  20. CML

    So, Carr would have contributed to winning the next election because he is a veteran politician who knows how to win elections! And he would have made a good Foreign Minister.
    Didn’t the current leadership of the Labor party just try to destroy (and removed to the back bench) a politician with those very same attributes? Kevin Rudd perhaps???
    And people wonder why some of us criticise the political skills of the PM. Unbelievable!!

  21. Gavin Moodie

    Rudd is not a ‘veteran’ politician – he entered Parliament in 1998 whereas Carr entered in 1983.

    Rudd won 1 election; Carr won 3.

    At least according to former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh, Rudd was a poor foreign minister.

  22. drmick

    Spot on Peter Ormonde and congratulations on your quadrella.
    This crappy cripey mob are shirty about being pulled up for churnalism and misogyny and they come up with his fact free piece of un-polishable crape. Much as I admire Mr Carr, he had repeatedly refused the urging of the party to go federal. They accepted the Debus instead and the deal was sealed. No Canberra for Bob. this is a fishing expedition churned up and spun by rubbish that have lost and should know better

  23. Mark from Melbourne

    CML – Haigh and White who both seem to know a bit about the subject were quite derisory about Rudd’s success as FM, suggesting that he spent a lot of time chasing things that weren’t central to Australia’s interests, chasing photo ops, and generally concentrating on self promotion rather than the job at hand.

    They both concluded that having someone who is just professional/intelligent but less of a dilettante would be worth trying for a while.

  24. Peter Ormonde

    “The Labor infighting over the Senate vacancy created by the departure of Mark Arbib demonstrates why the party’s problems run far deeper than Kevin Rudd and his alleged destabilisation.”

    Your lead par, that is.

    Here’s the real one:

    “Unsourced reports in the Murdoch Press of alleged Labor infighting over the Senate vacancy created by the departure of Mark Arbib demonstrates why the party’s problems run far deeper that Kevin Rudd and his destabilisation.”

    Can anyone spot the differences. One is factual and reports known things. The other is a slanted bin of sleight of hand.

    But once the unconfirmed nature and sources of your assumptions are made more apparent, your analysis of Labor’s deeper problems falls on its arse – and the real problem is revealed to be the cynical, celebrity squares gossiping of the press gallery … feeding off each other like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

    Crikey – Now with no source at all.

  25. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Crikey, what a load of cobblers. Time you got your facts right; and stopped reporting Shanahan’s comments from his mates on the other side of Parliament. Carr wouldn’t return to Parliament in a fit, been there, done that etc. and who wants the strife anyway?
    Kevin was/is intellectually gifted, but focused on regions that gave him the best chance of support for his end game at the UN. He could and should have spent a lot more time in Asia, but isn’t the most popular, aussie bloke in Beijing and kept away from Jakarta when he should applied his undoubted skills to a solution that stopped folk genuinely seeking a better life, paying a fortune and risking their lives to travel on unseaworthy boats to Australia. And he failed to get involved in the live cattle fiasco, when more info from Jakarta would have helped find a better solution for cattlemen and their customers.

  26. AR

    A replacement was discussed, an offer made, the offer turned down by the recipient. Further discussion then ensued.
    Where’s the problem?

  27. Peter Ormonde

    It came to me last night – in a dream – and once you realise it’s just so, so obvious.

    Crikey has started a policy of guest leader writers… this one was written by Suzanne Bleak.

    Take a dodgy unsourced report … the OZ, so it must be true, add some insider conjecture, colour it by numbers, impute some base motives and hey we have NEW FACTS, new conspiracy, new prophesies.

    And Bernard just hides behind his desk. Or is it a bolt-hole?

    On to the next set of NEW FACTS….No care taken, no responsibility accepted.
    Correspondence will not be entered into.

    Suzanne Bleak … the fewcha of innerpennent Orstrayan jernolissum? Your Gold Walkley would be in the mail… but we have no idea where to send it. C/- Bernard Keane???

    Where’s Crikey’s astrology column?

  28. David Allen

    Who’s going to lose out more than anyone else when the NBN is rolled out? I’d say Murdoch’s pay TV company.

    Anyone spot a vested interest in overturning the government.

    Shanahan went to the same creative writing school as Gemma Jones.

  29. JMNO

    Clearly whoever wrote this article does not work for an organisation of any size and more particularly has never managed a large staff.

    Staffing decisions are always the subject of speculation, to-ing and fro-ing, canvassing various candidates and coming up with a decision.

    The NSW Labor party looked for a Senate replacement. Thought Carr sounded like a good candidate, talked to him about it. He stipulated Foreign Affairs. Gillard talked to Carr. She then talked to HER TEAM, the people she currently works with. She talked to Stephen Smith who stepped aside for Rudd and never got a chance in the portfolio because Rudd ran it. She was no doubt aware that he might have had views on an outsider getting the job. He objected.

    Having talked to everyone with an interest, she made a decision in the interests of her government.

    Sounds like very good management practice to me.

    The Press gallery once again manages to turn it into a negative. Has Tony Abbott put something in the bubblers used by the Press Gallery? Their herd rush to construe anything Gillard does in a negative light is getting beyond a joke.

  30. Peter Ormonde

    Seems Criokey’s convent of moderators is having a bit of trouble organising that college of cardinals again. Since 8.45 am … drifting about waiting for someone to send up the white plume.

    Not because it’s rude or naughty – just that it suggests Bernard has handed the leader writer’s role over to guest columnist Suzanne Bleak.

    Well, maybe a bit naughty. Too naughty for you lot to see anyway.

    Forgive me fathers …. mea culpa. Oh yes mea culpa.

  31. Gavin Moodie

    @ Peter Ormonde

    Obviously defamation is the issue, but which one would be defamed?

  32. Peter Ormonde


    Us I suspect. Perhaps all.

    I want my day in Court.

  33. David Allen

    Spot on JMNO.

  34. Peter Ormonde

    Now where would those moderational cardinals be? … 12 hours…

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